Down by the River
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In life, there are people who have always been a part of your life — people who have seen you as a child and then watched you grow up to be a woman, people who held you high in your victory and helped you up in your defeat, people who could tell exactly who you are and what you want, where you love to stay and who you are always with. They are people whose existence became so deeply entwined with yours and therefore would always hold a special place in your heart.
And then, there are people who suddenly appeared in your life, turned your world upside down, and left you breathless and in awe of what could have been but would never be. They are the people whose fleeting contact with you touched you deeply, and profoundly changed the way you look at things.
Whenever I assess what has happened and what is happening in my life, I always realize that he was one of them — those people who were gone as quickly as they had come, and yet whose influence can never be denied. And in a small, hidden corner of my heart, I know that I will always wait for him, long for him.
I lived deep inside a thick forest, protected from the corruption of the world by the quiet teachings of my grandmother. From time to time, there would be some visitors to our humble dwelling made of bamboo and wood, and their presence would always delight me, for it was a pleasant distraction from the monotony of my life. Not that I was discontented with how I spent my days back then. It was just that, when you grew up far from civilization and with only one old woman to talk to every now and then, you would always be thrilled by the prospect of meeting new people and perhaps forming a tentative friendship with them.
Grandmother taught me everything I knew. She taught me how to keep our little hut clean, how to wash our clothes, how to cook our meals. She taught me where to fetch clean water, where to find edible fruits, where to pluck the various herbs that she used as medicine. She even taught me how to care for our chickens and how to make simple salves and potions. Whatever she thought I should learn, she made sure I knew. In time, she taught me how to read and write, and although I did not particularly enjoy reading and writing, I painstakingly studied them in order to please her.
Once every two weeks, Grandmother would ask me to get out of the forest and go to the house of our nearest neighbor — whose house I could only reach after almost two hours of walking however fast I tried to walk. I would always bring a basket of fruits and vegetables — sometimes even a few eggs — during those visits to Mary. Mary and her family were perhaps my closest friends in the world after my grandmother. Whenever I would visit their house, Mary would ask me to have lunch with her family, and I would always think that they were having a feast, for I could only eat beef and fish whenever I was in their house. Sometimes, I thought that Mary only prepared those meals when I was around, for her boys reached for the meat as eagerly as I did. I would play with those boys for a while afterward, as Mary packed a basket of food and a bottle of fresh milk for Grandmother. Then she would ask her oldest boy, Lucas, to walk me back to our house. Lucas was two years older than me, and would always entertain me with stories about his school during those long walks, or stories about the latest trouble that his brothers Jim and Danny found themselves in.
All in all, I was contented with how my life went on back then. I had my grandmother, my friends in Mary’s family, and sometimes some very nice visitors from the town. I thought nothing was missing in my life, that my life could not be better. But then I was wrong.
I met him that afternoon after Lucas walked me home. Mary baked a cake that day to celebrate my eighteenth birthday. In all my life, I had never seen a cake, and I let out a gasp of wonder when I beheld that beautifully-decorated dessert. I almost did not want to ruin it by taking a slice, but I could see that everyone was waiting for the chance to taste it, so I held my breath and cut a portion for myself. It tasted simply amazing.
By that time, Grandmother was almost never away from our hut. Age caught up with her and her joints were always aching, so we agreed that it was time for me to take over and take care of her.
That afternoon, as she began eating a slice of the cake Mary asked me to bring home, I told Grandmother that I would fetch some water from the river, knowing that there was barely enough water for us to drink that night. The sun was nowhere near the horizon yet, and Grandmother readily agreed.
Carrying a bucket, I made my way to the river, humming a happy tune all the while. The day seemed to reflect my mood, and I could not ask for more from life. When I reached my destination and bent over to splash some water on my face, its coolness tempted me to remove my slippers and dip my feet in the water, the bucket lying half-forgotten on a rock nearby.
Suddenly, no more than ten feet Yozgat Escort from where I was, a man appeared from underwater. Shocked, I could only let out a yelp, thoughts of water demons grabbing ankles of unsuspecting maids running through my mind. Yet, he looked just as startled as I did, and when my eyes met his, I caught my breath.
He was beautiful. Wet, dark hair fell to his broad shoulders, drawing my eyes downward to a smooth, hard chest, and down still to well-muscled stomach. But it was his face that drew me the most. His eyes were almost the colour of honey, and his lips were tantalizingly full — lips that curved upwards into a smile when the initial shock ebbed away.
“Good day to you,” he said softly.
His voice, silky and seductive, somehow sent me to panic. I hurried out of the water, but before I could reach the bank, a hand already closed around my wrist. Now terrified, I shrieked.
“Calm down!” he said, his other hand closing over my mouth. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
I stiffened, not trusting him. What kind of man would grab a woman this way if he had no intention of hurting her? Never had a man acted like that towards me. It was scary.
Yet he was holding me gently against him, and the shivers that racked my body were not caused by fear. Slowly, he let me go before stepping away. I turned to face him reluctantly. The way he was looking up and down my whole body sent another shiver down my spine. If I did not know better, I would think that he was thinking about devouring me.
When he met my eyes, I looked away — down, in fact. My eyes almost popped out when I realized that he was completely naked. I was not so innocent as to not know the different parts of a male body; Grandmother taught me all about that. His … manhood was standing in its full height. Face burning, I turned away and tried to control the flood of blood up my face. It was an unsuccessful attempt.
“Your clothes!” I snapped almost hysterically. “Put them on!”
He was chuckling as he waded out of the water. “It scared you, didn’t it? I’m very sorry. This is no way to introduce myself to a woman.” There was a pause — presumably as he put on his clothes. “My name is Marcus, by the way.”
With resolution, I walked back to the bank, slightly wincing as I realized that the hem of my dress was already wet. I stepped on my slippers, grabbed the bucket from where it sat on the rock and fetched some water, not glancing even once at the man who had just introduced himself to me.
“Wait!” came his voice before I felt his hand around my wrist again, just as I was already walking away. “Will you please tell me your name at least?”
Against my better judgment, I turned to face him. The hopeful look on his face made me speechless. However, I shook my head at his request.
He swallowed. “You will be here again tomorrow, won’t you?”
I did not say anything. I just turned away from him and started walking home, glad that he did not follow me.
That night, for the first time in my life, I tossed and turned on my cot as I remembered the image of the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on.
The next day, I found myself in the river again. It might have been a bad decision, since I clearly dreaded the thought of seeing Marcus one more time, but I could not help it. Part of me wanted to see him in spite of my fears. He was not the most harmless man I had met, true, but something about him drew me in, and I had no strength to resist that.
He was sitting on top of a huge rock, looking down at the water as if he were contemplating something of great importance. Sensing a presence, his eyes snapped up, alert, but they softened as he recognized me. It almost made me smile.
“I was hoping you’d come,” he said with a smile as he leaped down from the rock. “I was just wondering if I had to wait all day…”
Unbelievably, I found it quite flattering. I smiled, if hesitantly. “I cannot afford not to come.” I held up the bucket I was carrying. “My grandmother and I need something to drink.”
“Allow me to help you with that task, then,” he offered, taking the bucket from my hand. As he bent down to fetch some water, he continued, “I am sorry about yesterday. I did not mean to scare you.”
“I am also sorry,” I said, watching as he placed the bucket on the ground once it was filled. “I did not mean to act as if I had seen a monster…”
He laughed. “I suppose that any decent woman whose first encounter with a man involves seeing him starkly naked, would find the experience terrifying.”
My face burned at the recollection of the image that played inside my head for most of the night before, sending an unfamiliar yet not unpleasant sensation between my thighs. “I suppose.”
“How about we forget the whole affair and start again?” he suggested, grinning at me as he offered his hand, palm up. “I am Marcus Laoran.”
“Selene Kier,” I said, giving him my hand to shake. He brought it to his Yozgat Escort Bayan lips instead.
“Pleased to meet you,” he murmured, his warm breath still caressing the back of my hand, sending my heart somersaulting.
That would be the first of our many meetings down by the river.
Lucas’ question startled me. “What do you mean?”
He shrugged, looking at me sideways. “You seem…different.”
I laughed at that. “Different? I am the same Selene as the one you grew up knowing.”
“You don’t believe that,” he murmured, smiling at me. “You were like this last time you visited us, too, and even Mary noticed the change in you. She just won’t ask you blatantly as I am doing right now. But we’re curious.”
It had been a month since I first met Marcus by the river. If there were any changes in me, I was sure that it was caused by the strange man who was meeting me every day for the past four weeks. Not that I thought there was any major changes that happened.
“I’m just happy,” I told Lucas, smiling at him.
Lucas stopped in his tracks. I, too, stopped to look at him. He was looking at me as if I were something he needed to study, and it made me feel uneasy.
“Stop that,” I said, frowning. “You are making me feel uncomfortable.”
I could see the battle going on inside him. Finally, with a sigh, he frowned and met my eyes. “Don’t get me wrong, all right? By any chance, have you met a man lately?”
He came too close. Actually, he hit the bull’s eye. Blood rushed up my face and I glared at him before turning my back, marching away. “You are being ridiculous! How dare you think that a man has caused changes in me?”
I was lying. Of course, I was. I did not know why I suddenly wanted to keep my friendship with Marcus a secret. But, deep inside, I thought I found a reason: I was afraid that the people I knew would not want me to be friends with him, and I liked Marcus too much. He made me smile and made me laugh the way nobody else ever did. He made me feel as if I was something more than a child who knew nothing of the world beyond the forest and Mary’s house. He told me stories about a world I had never seen before, and listened as I introduced him to the world I knew.
“Selene!” Lucas called as he followed me. “I did not mean to offend you! Wait!”
Feeling guilty that I had to lie to him, I stopped to wait until he was beside me again. Lucas, for the first time in all the years that I had known him, put an arm around my shoulders and pulled me towards him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, squeezing my shoulder.
I looked at him and smiled slightly. “It’s all right.”
He opened his mouth as if to say something, thought better of it, and closed it again. All the while, his eyes were trained on mine. The way he was looking at me reminded me of how Marcus always did, and although it was kind of disconcerting, I said nothing to him and did not even step back to put some distance between us. His arm was still around me, although now, it was around my waist, not my shoulders.
“Selene,” he said softly. His other hand touched my face, sending a shiver down my spine.
Before I knew what was happening, his lips were already touching mine. Shocked, I pushed him away and stepped back. He groaned and looked at me briefly, before looking away and once again lifting the basket of food that Mary prepared for my grandmother.
I stood there for a while, wondering what exactly happened, before finally shaking my head and following him as he resolutely walked the path that led to our house, while a very uneasy silence descended upon the two of us.
Marcus spread the picnic blanket over the grassy spot of the riverbank. I watched him silently, delighted by the way he moved, so very gently yet manly.
“It’s ready, madame,” he called to me, grinning from ear to ear as he gestured to the blanket, bowing with exaggerated grace.
I laughed and joined him as he sat on the blanket. Every day for the last ten days, he had been bringing that blanket with him, along with the basket filled with foods from his own house. We would always eat together, laughing and chatting until sunset, when I would say goodbye to him and head back home to cook dinner for grandmother and myself. I still did not want Marcus to meet my only family, perhaps because I believed that grandmother would disapprove of our secret meetings.
Grandmother never asked me where I went after I finished with all my chores, so there was no problem about me being gone from her side for hours on end. I just needed to make sure I cleaned the house, fed the chicken, watered our vegetables, and cooked meals, and Grandmother would let me do as I pleased with the time I had on my hands. Before meeting Marcus, I would spend those hours walking alone in the forest, with nowhere in particular as my destination.
Marcus wound his arm around my waist when I sat beside him. It might seem strange, yet it felt right Escort Yozgat somehow, that even though we barely knew each other, we could act as if we had known each other forever. I reached for the basket of food and began to unpack it.
The day was pleasant enough. I left Mary’s house shortly after lunch, and due to the kiss that Lucas gave me, our journey to my house took less than how it almost always took us before. As soon as I was certain that Grandmother would not need me for the rest of the day, I slipped out to go to the river, where Marcus was already waiting for me.
“God, I won’t mind spending my whole life like this,” Marcus murmured as he took a bite from the barbecue I was handing him. He did not take it from me; instead, he wound his arms tightly around me and pulled me closer. “I love spending time with you, Selene.”
And I, too, loved spending time with him. Not that I thought he needed to know that. “Do you cook all these foods every time?”
“Me, cooking?” He found that extremely amusing. “No, I don’t. I don’t even cook at all.”
“Who prepares the food, then?” I inquired, wondering if I would ever be good at cooking, the way that whoever cooked these foods was.
“My betrothed,” he answered.
I froze. Of course, I should not have been surprised that he was betrothed. Marcus was good-looking, nice, charming. The way he dressed and the way he acted also told me that he was from a well-to-do family.
His chuckle annoyed me. With a glare at him, I abruptly stood up, intending to go as far away from that place as possible. He, however, managed to stop me by encircling my waist with his arms.
“Let go!” I cried, still glowering as I hit his arm.
“I’m merely teasing you,” he said, somewhat confused. Something in me told me that he wanted to laugh at my reaction, but his good sense was telling him that it would annoy me even more.
“It is not funny!” I told him, still hitting his arm. “Let go!”
Finally, he allowed himself the pleasure of smiling as he pulled me close to him. “Selene. I am very, very sorry about the jest, but I am not letting you go.”
I stopped struggling and just glared at him. “Why make such a jest, anyway? I only spend time with you because I thought we are friends — “
“We can still be friends even if I were betrothed,” he interjected, grinning devilishly.
“But it will not be the same!” I lamented, shaking my head. “I cannot spend time with you every single day when I know that there is a woman waiting for you somewhere in town.” An uncomfortable feeling settled on the pit of my stomach at the thought of a lovely lady waiting for Marcus to return home to her. It galled and upset me. Mustering as much courage as I could, I looked him in the eye and calmly asked, “In all honesty, Marcus, is there such a woman?”
“Of course not,” he abruptly answered, stroking my cheek as he placed his forehead on mine. He spoke with sincerity, with gentleness. “There’s only one woman who has captured my fancy lately, and she’s you, Selene. I want you — only you.”
Time seemed to stand still for me. All I could hear was his voice; all I could feel was his presence; all I could see was his face. As close to him as that, I could clearly make out his unique masculine scent — something that will be engraved in my memory for as long as I live. His every touch seemed to scorch my skin.
He began lightly stroking my arms while he bent his head to nuzzle at my neck. I caught my breath and had to grab his shoulders for support, as I thought my knees would buckle beneath me. I knew I should not let him do this to me, yet I felt powerless to stop him. In fact, I did not wish him to stop at all. If I would be honest to myself, I had been wondering — from the moment I saw him naked in the water — how it would feel like to be held like this by this man.
I closed my eyes, caring nothing for the world as I began to savour the feelings that Marcus was evoking in me. It seemed to me that every inch of my body was anticipating his touch, his kiss. With a groan, I pressed my body closer to his and buried my face on his neck.
His hands were on my hips, stroking their way upwards until they touched the sides of my breasts. Gently, he cupped each breast, his thumbs brushing over the tips. Once again, I groaned, much louder this time. I reluctantly tried to pull away, feeling as though I was already falling out of control, but my resistance seemed to ignite something in him. Groaning, he pulled me closer, roughly pressing me to his body as his lips covered mine. His tongue darted into my mouth, demanding, ferocious.
“My god, Selene,” he growled when he ended that exhilarating kiss. “I will certainly lose my sanity if I cannot have y — “
I did not let him finish it; instead, I pulled his face down for another kiss. Why should I listen to him? There was no point hearing exactly what I was thinking of. I would go insane if he did not take me soon.
How he managed to lay me down on the picnic blanket, I would never remember. I was too busy kissing and stroking him that I could not pay attention to such minor things. The next thing I knew was that I was already lying down, and Marcus was kissing every inch of my exposed skin, while his hands explored the areas still covered by my dress.
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